On doing what he loves

Craig: So why do you do what you love?

Mat: See that’s an interesting question because I had to learn the hard way of why am I doing the things I don’t want to do? [00:00:30] Or why am I doing the things I hate? Or why am I doing the things that I think that I have to do? For a while, I feel like everybody thinks they have to do a lot of different things, and that there is this pressure growing up and just in our society that you have to do these certain things.

When it came down to it, I thought doing what I love wasn’t really a viable option. I couldn’t really pay my rent and do these different things [00:01:00] if I actually did what I loved. So I felt that I had to make a compromise. I really loved art and doing graphic design and painting and stuff like that. I was like, well, I’ll do graphic design, so that way I can make money.

What I really loved to do was being creative. Like just being creative, but what I ended up doing was becoming a graphic designer and-

Craig: Trying to bend that creativity to fit someone else’s mold.

Mat: And give my creativity to somebody else, [00:01:30] and to help other people, you know to do other people’s visions and dreams. So I did that for 10 years or so. I did that for a really long time until I just got so frustrated, I quit. I just recently got over this whole resentment to computers and technology all together because I was just so-

Craig: Total rage quit. Right. [00:02:00] Burn it all.

Mat: Yeah. I was really frustrated that I spent so many of my years sitting on a computer wishing I was doing something else, looking out the window going oh it’s such a nice day. I wish I could go outside and play.

But you can’t play! You’re an adult. You have to work. You have to make enough money. You need health insurance. You need to pay your rent. You need food. You need to, you know …

Craig: Tow the line. That’s the-

Mat: All these different things that keep you there. But what ended up happening is after [00:02:30] 10 years or so, I mean I got sick a few different times, where it was … It was detrimental to my health and my life.

The first time around, it turned into like an addiction with alcohol and drugs, is that that was my escape. I had to go to work and do these things, sit at a desk for so long. On the weekend, I wanted to have fun [00:03:00] and live life and live life to its fullest and take advantage of the time that I had. The only way that I knew how to do that was to go out and party, to go out to bars and jump on a table or a stage dive or-

Craig: You let it all hang out.

Mat: Do something crazy. And that was my output, but what that did to me over a long period time was make me really unhealthy. Then I found myself weighing like a hundred pounds, and I [00:03:30] was really sick and depressed and hallucinating just on my own, just because of how unhealthy I was. I needed a way out, and that’s when I found Parkour, and that was it.

What is it about Parkour that you saw as an escape?

Craig: So why Parkour? What is it about Parkour that you saw as the escape?

Mat: When I nailed it down to what I really loved to do, what I really love to do is play. [00:04:00] And Parkour is like the grownup version of play.

Craig: Right or the not yet and the not grown up version of play. It’s just play.

Mat: Yeah. Another thing about Parkour is that I was able to be creative. And that was also why I liked graphic design and being a painter and these other different things I did with visual arts, is I’m a very creative person. And I’m able to be creative with my movement.

Craig: Without having to be nailed [00:04:30] to a desk or a computer, all those things that you wanted to get away from.

Mat: Yes. I could also be very creative as a coach, so I could help other people and help other people learn movement. And that is to me, when I make a lesson plan, it is like painting a picture or making a sculpture or something. But I’m making an hour experience.

Craig: Yeah crafting a journey that you’re going to take people through.

Mat: Yeah, and so [00:05:00] I fell in love with this whole experiencing life, and Parkour has helped bring that out. Where my experiences before with being a painter is you have this experience. You make it, and then it’s on a wall. You know? And you want other people to experience that too.

But with Parkour, it’s that actual, when I jump, I’m in the moment, and I’m living that experience. Then once I have that experience, I can use that as paint and my palette to help others when [00:05:30] I’m doing my classes. And oh, remember that one time where I did that one jump, and I learned all these different life lessons.

Craig: How do I craft this to convey that feeling to them. Right?

Mat: Yeah. I went through a long time really questioning myself though. After I fell in love with Parkour, I just stopped doing art. I stopped painting. I was a tattoo artist for a little bit too, and I just stopped. I put all my stuff in a box, and I still have it in my closet. And I wonder if it’s every gonna come out.

[00:06:00] The thing is I feel completely quenched, like my creative tendencies are being fulfilled through playing around, swinging, jumping, having fun with kids.

Craig: Coaching and right.

Mat: Yeah, I get to be creative every single day in all these different ways is just a lot different, so I thought I was losing a part of me, when I had this transformation, and I was learning Parkour. Because I did art [00:06:30] for so many years, and it was such a big part of my life. I still have it all over my body, so I have that.

And I still love it. I look at other people’s art, and I can really appreciate it and I like to see beautiful things. But now I’ve learned a greater appreciation of experiencing things, of experiencing moments in art and ideas [00:07:00] and being in it.

So to me, Parkour is art. I realized after a few years, I didn’t lose it. I’m still an artist. I’m a life artist. I’m a movement artist. And I can still be creative, and I can play.

Seeing everything as an opportunity

Craig: Many people say that they enjoy overcoming obstacles, but when you say it, I know that you have a deeper, a more considered meaning behind that phrase, which is often thrown around quite lightly. [00:07:30] So I’m wondering if you can unpack a little bit about why you feel that overcoming obstacles has a deeper meaning for you?

Mat: For me, overcoming obstacles is a way of life. It’s my way of life. And it is the thing that I feel has ultimately changed my life and changed how I live. My experience is in everything that happens to me, or how I react [00:08:00] when things happen to me.

So before I learned Parkour, overcoming obstacles was not something I liked to do or something that I felt passionate about. An obstacle would happen, and I would feel like, oh no, this happened to me, and now I have to deal with this. This is a terrible thing.

But after learning Parkour, I started to see obstacles in a new light and a new way of thinking. So when something happens to me in my life, I don’t see it as a negative [00:08:30] thing. I see it as an opportunity for me to grow and become strong or demonstrate how strong I’ve become.

Something that’s recently, that’s happened to me, is I had my lung collapse. So old me, before Parkour, this would be a victim thing. This would be, “My lung collapsed. My life’s over. I’m gonna be stuck in bed forever. How dare this happen. Why me? So many other people, they live their [00:09:00] lives, and their lungs don’t collapse. Why did my lung collapse?”

Craig: Yeah, I was doing so great before this, but …

Mat: Yeah, and then I could just play on that for years, maybe for the rest of my life, I could use that as a disability, or why my life sucks is because I had a collapsed lung. But after learning Parkour and really finding and appreciating overcoming obstacles, when my lung collapsed, it was like, “Wow, here’s my chance to demonstrate how strong I have become.”

I’ve learned how to overcome [00:09:30] obstacles physically with my body, how to do pull-ups and climb-ups and kongs and all these different things. But here’s something that’s happened to me, and I’m gonna use that progressive method that I use when I’m doing Parkour. But I’m gonna use this with my body, and I’m gonna use it to get strong, and I’m gonna use it to get through the surgery. I’m gonna use it to become healthy fast, and then be able to get back to work and get back to doing what I love. I’ve done this before, so I can do it again. I’m just going to [00:10:00] get better and better at it.

Craig: That’s great mindset. Right.

Mat: Yeah, I didn’t see it as something that was terrible, and when I was in the hospital everybody was really impressed with me. I saw it as like, “Bring it on!’

Craig: Yeah, you were talking about the physical therapist, and you know, most people hate their physical therapist. “Oh, I don’t want to go. It hurts.” And your attitude was, “Yeah, tell me exactly what I have to do,” and your watch beeps every hour to remind you to breath, which is something they had you doing [00:10:30] as a physical therapy, but now it’s like that’s actually a really good thing to do.

Mat: Yeah, so they gave me exercises, and I loved them because I love exercises. I love trying to be strong. I love doing things in a progressive method where I break everything down into steps. So if they say, “Oh you do this step here, and then this step and this step, and you’ll be on your way.” And I say, “Yes, I trust that.” I know that. I know when I was learning kongs, I did not know how to do a full kong, but I broke it up into steps, and I learned each step, and then I put it together.

Craig: Understand the process.

Mat: [00:11:00] Yeah. So now, I could do this with my lungs. I could do it with my body. They sliced my back open to do the surgery, and so I lost all my pull-ups-

Craig: All the pull. Right.

Mat: All my upper body strength was gone, and at first I was hurt. I was like, “Oh man, I worked so hard on muscle-ups and pull-ups, and now I can’t even do one.” But then I was like, wait a minute. I’ve done it once. I can do it again. I know, actually, how to do it [00:11:30] better now.

Craig: Right.

Mat: So this time around, it’s gonna go a lot better than the first time I did it. So here’s an opportunity for me to focus on the fundamentals of pull-ups again. And the fundamentals of all my different exercises. Like as I felt like I lost it, and then I get to rebuild. So it was like a challenge. It was like a thing.

And so, with Parkour, we need to learn how to adapt to different environments. [00:12:00] So I just had to learn how to adapt in my life and adapt to having this big slice in my back. While I was in the hospital, I had to adapt having a tube in my lung.

Craig: In your lung.

Mat: Man, which was painful for a while, and oh man, it was so hard. But I knew that I could do it. You know, step-by-step, I could just watch the clock, and I’ll know [00:12:30] tomorrow I’ll be better than I was the day before.

Just like with Parkour, I’m getting stronger and stronger, more knowledgeable. And with going through the surgery, it was the same thing. It was just gonna happen again. You know? I know how to transform myself, and I’m gonna put it into practice.

I learned a lot of things from Parkour. I learned a [00:13:00] lot of valuable life lessons, but on the way, I’ve also learned things that seem unrelated to Parkour, but also, equally important life lessons. One of those life lessons that I’ve recently learned, but it’s been there throughout my whole life is turning bad things into good things.

And it’s weird for me to even say it bad because now, I kind of don’t believe there is bad.

Craig: You sort of realize those things [00:13:30] were actually good in the first place. Right?

Mat: Yeah, well to turn bad things into good things, it’s just I wonder if everything is actually good. And we just kind of make them bad, or we don’t want to adapt and change and learn.

Craig: Yeah, what makes it bad is your reaction to it. That’s what paints the bad onto the event.

Mat: So I’ve had some bad things happen in my life. Like how I was talking about earlier with my jobs that I didn’t like. [00:14:00] Those were bad, but now-

Craig: Yes, stressful, toxic, environments-

Mat: Now I really, truly appreciate and love what I do, where I’m working with kids, and I’m playing, and it’s a nice day, and I’m outside. Or I’m in a gym that’s comfortable, and we’re having a good time, and I’m doing it.

And it just makes me thankful. All the times that I was stuck behind the window or in [00:14:30] my cubicle at a desk, now just makes me really appreciate moving and feeling free and laughing and making jokes and doing all these different fun things.

Then even when things got bad at my other jobs, and I turned to drinking to try to get a way out. Now I appreciate how good and amazing it is to be sober. And how amazing is that experience. [00:15:00] It’s something I can’t give to somebody else, and I have a hard time describing it, but I have it for myself, and I love it. Sometimes it makes me so happy that I’ll cry from happiness. I would never have that though, if I never spent so many years being depressed.

Craig: If you hadn’t gone through the shadow, if you hadn’t walked through the valley.

Mat: So I learned that, and I tried to use that immediately. So something else that’s happened to me is that I [00:15:30] had my house robbed. I was at a first day of a job that I just started, and while I was at work training, my house was getting broken into.

Craig: Oh that’s horrible.

Mat: They were stealing my laptop, my monitor. They smashed my Go-Pro, and then stole the keys to my car, and I did not realize that until they took the car!

Craig: They came back later and took the car.

Mat: They [00:16:00] came back later in the night while I was sleeping. After I discovered my whole house was stolen- or all of the stuff in my house was stolen, and I went to bed. They came back and stole my car while I was sleeping.

I woke up, and I just look. And I’m like, “Did I leave my car somewhere else?” I don’t drink anymore. I couldn’t have just misplaced it. I’ve worked this out in my life. I know where my car is, but it’s not there. [00:16:30] Did it roll down the street?

Craig: No.

Mat: I mean it couldn’t have just rolled. Okay, it’s gone. Oh they stole it.

Craig: They came back and stole my car. Oh that’s rude.

Mat: Yeah, just like all the other stuff. So immediately, right off the bat though, from having all these different other experiences in my life that seemed to be bad, and I had such a hard time with them. And it took years until I understood that they were very good things to happen to me. I immediately put it into practice.

So I was like, okay, all my stuff’s gone. [00:17:00] I’m alive, and I’m okay. Like it’s not the end of the world. Can you believe that? For some reason, I always feared that losing your laptop and losing your camera and your car and different things, somehow that would end the world.

Craig: That’s somehow like, no that’s where the line is.

Mat: I’m like, oh my God no. I’m breathing. This is amazing. How can this possibly be? All my stuff’s gone, and I’m okay. I’m healthy, and I’m happy.

Craig: Did this [00:17:30] happen to you after your lung operation?

Mat: Yeah. Yeah. So this was shortly after. I’m still-

Craig: We’re laughing now, but this is not-

Mat: Yeah, it was just boom, boom. So I started to immediately put it into practice. I’m like okay, well maybe there isn’t bad things that happen. Maybe everything is actually good, and I just need to right now open my eyes to the possibility of what good could come out of this.

And I was like, all right, well what if I get a better [00:18:00] car than I had? And I was like, well that was like my nicest car that I’ve had. I mean it was the newest car I had. I’d kept it really, really super clean. People would get in my car, and they’d be like “Wow, how do you keep this car so clean? This smells like a new car.” But it wasn’t a new car. It was like a 2012, but it was the newest car I ever had.

Craig: You’d been taking care of it.

Mat: So, I let that come into my reality. I was like well yeah, I don’t know, maybe I can get a better car than I had before. Then [00:18:30] oh man, my camera’s gone. I can’t film Parkour. Well, what if you don’t really need to film Parkour right now?

Craig: How much time was I spending filming?

Mat: Yeah, what if I need to just practice Parkour not filming stuff? You know? And I was like okay, well I need to start doing Parkour with no camera, not filming anything. What about my computer? Well you hated design work for so much of your life, how about you live life without a laptop. See what that’s like. This is good for you. This is a gift. They took [00:19:00] your laptop, something that you’ve grown resent-

Craig: Yeah, it was actually a stone around your neck, and you didn’t know it until they took it away, and you stood up.

Mat: There you go. You know. And then I learned to appreciate it. My insurance company, luckily, I don’t know how it works. Normally it doesn’t work so well for other people. Things happened, and they were really strange.

One day it looked like I was totally screwed, that I was gonna lose thousands [00:19:30] of dollars off this. I wasn’t gonna get a new car. I was gonna have to get like a used car or something like this. Then the next day, it was like, oh no, actually it could work out. There was like this weird thing with numbers and the math, and now it’s taken care of. And it kept on going up and down, and I just kept on trusting that everything would be okay, and it’ll work out exactly how it should.

Craig: I’ll work that out when they make a decision. Right? I’m not gonna freak out.

Mat: It’ll work out how it will work out. And I ended up getting the nice car. I ended up getting a car [00:20:00] nicer than my old car in every way. My new car has better gas mileage, way better gas mileage. I never had a car that had such good gas mileage. Like now it’s like a hobby of mine, and I find enjoyment getting good gas mileage going down the street.

Craig: Hyper-mileing. Right.

Mat: I’m like, yes! I can’t believe this is possible. I’m doing it. It’s a newer car. So I had a 2012, now I have a 2015. So I really lucked out. My payments [00:20:30] are also so much lower. I really couldn’t actually afford the old car that I had, and I was always praying please help me with my bills.

Craig: Yeah, if I could just make it.

Mat: And then I made a joke that like the angels took my car away because they were tired of paying your bills for you every month. You don’t need this car. We’re gonna get you something else. It’s better, and it’s cheaper, and now you can be a coach. And you can only do that for a living, and you don’t have to have this expensive car payment, and you don’t have to spend all your time on a computer.

[00:21:00] But recently, today actually, I opened up my new computer for the first time. I had some hard time with it actually. I got so used to not having it in my life, that I really appreciated not having it in my life.

Craig: Not having it in your life.

Mat: But I’m opened to the fact that well, I’m gonna let new things come into my life, and I’m not gonna hold onto them so tight like I did with my other [00:21:30] belongings. If somebody comes and steals my new laptop, it’s okay. If somebody comes and steals my new car, it’s okay. I can have nice things, and it’s okay if it doesn’t work out.

So now I have a new laptop, and my new laptop is better than my old laptop. And I’m getting a new camera that’s better than my old camera is.

Craig: I’m sensing a pattern here. Right?

Mat: Yeah, so this has been, just something that I really wanted to share with everybody that’s listening to this podcast, is that you [00:22:00] really can turn negative, bad situations into good positive ones. It’s just how you see it, and if you’re ready. If you can open up and believe the possibility of something good could happen. It can.

If you’re new to Parkour, and you are doubting, I don’t know if I can do it. I don’t know if I can do Parkour. Or maybe [00:22:30] you want to be a Parkour coach, and you’re doubting that too. I would say just try to open up and be able to receive it.

See it as a possibility in life, and say, “Let it be an option.” Don’t instantly say, “Oh no this is bad. I can’t do it.” “Oh my lung collapsed. I can’t breathe anymore for the rest of my life, I’m totally done. I can’t exercise.” Or “I hurt my ankle once. I’m not good at Parkour.”

Craig: Right. Give up. Give up at the first sign [00:23:00] of difficulty.

Mat: Just use it as things to grow, and then you’ll be so much stronger after that.

On being just a normal person

Craig: Mat, I know you don’t want me to put on a pedestal, but I want to sort of drag you out a little bit further. A lot of the things that you have described, you’ve left out some of the details of the challenges that you really went through, and things were much more difficult than they sound.

I want to just sort of put you on the spot a little bit to get you to explain why you believe that you’re not special. Why do you believe [00:23:30] that this is just a regular way to live?

Mat: Yeah, that’s the thing. Sometimes I think to myself that I’m just normal. That I’m just your average guy. A lot of these things that I do isn’t something that is a supernatural feat. That I have something really super special that somebody can’t have themselves. I see everything I do as what an average [00:24:00] human can do. We go through life, and we have negative things happen to us. This is all normal.

Craig: Right.

Mat: We all get this opportunity to do this and see the world like this and be able to respond in this way. So once I started to do this, then my life transformed in all different ways then I possibly could [00:24:30] imagine. So when people who know me, different family members or friends that I’ve known for years, they think, “Oh wow, well Mat can do it, but I can’t do it.” You know?

You could totally do it. It’s completely possible to do it. I mean I don’t feel like what I did was too special, but maybe it might have been just making the right decision, which is definitely hard, but it’s completely possible.

[00:25:00] So I have my doubts as well. As an average person, I think “Man, there are so many other people that are talented than me.” And I see them in my life. They come to the gym. They can do awesome tricks that I can’t do. But the thing is that I keep on going anyways. Instead of comparing myself [00:25:30] to other people, I see everybody else is on a different path in their life.

We’re all in different stages. We’re all learning different lessons, and somebody might be very talented at one thing, and somebody might be very talented at another. So what I do, is I concentrate on the things that I’m talented, and I’m good at. I might not be the most talented athlete. I might not be on the Red Bull Art of Motion.

Craig: Right, or the best business person, or the best family guy, whatever.

Mat: [00:26:00] Yeah, but I wake up, and I do what I love. That overrides and overpowers where I lack in different skills. My love and my creativity brings me out of that. So I see myself as a very average, regular person, but since I’m doing what I love, and I believe in what I’m doing, that I can go on through my life and seemingly do these very impressive things. I [00:26:30] also believe anybody else can do this too. All you need is some challenges and a good vision.

Craig: A focused mindset.

Mat: Yeah, a good pair of glasses.

Thoughts on the 2017 Art of Retreat

This weekend I attended The Art of Retreat in NYC with many of the community leaders, business owners and athletes that have been directly responsible for the growth and progress of our young sport. Collecting my thoughts will be difficult so we’ll see how this goes.

I thought I was attending the event to discuss with others how and why we should form a national governing body for the American communities – after the first day of governance discussion with Eugene Minogue and Victor Bevine it became very clear to me that the solution to our communal plight does not lie within what others have done in the past, but rather within the parameters that are unique to the American market. While it was good to hear an international opinion ultimately the formation of our governance (or decision against governance) must come from the hearts and minds of American athletes and business owners that understand that nature of our capitalist democracy. This much you probably already knew.

In my opinion we cannot expect to grow in a calculated way as a national sport if we remain unorganized. It has been invaluable for each region to define its own marketplace and practices but I believe in order to grow exponentially we must level the playing field and start getting better about transparency of business practice and research so that all can benefit where few have prospered. In each region people are blindly having to make the same mistakes and jump through hoops that older entrepreneurs have already navigated – and we have the power to change that. By each organization and region investing in a governing body that is dedicated to the preservation and innovation of our sport we ensure peer review instead of monopoly.

There is of course the American sentiment that a government was made to get in a citizen’s way but we have the power to formulate and structure any system that we want. When the Founding Fathers and the members of the Constitutional Convention met to decide secession from the British Empire they were not purely reacting to foreign oppression, they were using foreign oppression as a focusing device to ensure a future for American citizens and businesses. They did not expect to topple the British Empire but merely to ensure that the future of our nation rested within the hands of her people. We do not have the power and resources to defeat FIG if they have their mind set on putting parkour in Olympics, but we can control the growth and innovation of the American communities through spreading out the workload so many have contributed to in order to strengthen our sport nationally by investing in young entrepreneurs.

I see the culture of excellence Brandee Laird Rene Scavington and Dylan Polin have instilled in their communities and it excites me for the future generations of our movement. I look at how Justin Sheaffer and Caitlin Pontrella can organize an event and I see a young athlete learning how to host a jam or event in their own community. I listen to Alice B. Popejoy and Craig Constantine efficiently facilitate discourse and communication that could improve every business in this nation’s sport. I witness the example set by entrepreneurs like Dan Iaboni Ryan Ford and Amos Rendao emulated by the current and next generations of our sport and with a concentrated effort on all our parts I believe we can develop a system that enriches our current businesses and emboldens our other community members to contribute to the marketplace with all our support.

I am still learning my role to play in all of this but I am convinced that I can use my ability to communicate to bridge these companies and communities together. I am humbled by the opportunity to learn from each of you and I look forward to the future we will craft together together. You have all inspired me for the better part of a decade and I am dedicated to returning the favor. When I think about this sport I am filled with nothing but pride and admiration (besides chronic knee pain). Thank you for your support and love as always.

On the 1,000 muscle-ups challenge

Craig: The 1,000 Muscle-ups Challenge is infamous and if you haven’t seen it we’ll link the video in the show notes. A lot of people I think mistake that as a suggestion for a way to train muscle-ups [00:00:30] and that’s clearly not what was going on. Can you unpack that a little bit for us?

Chris: Yeah, basically we have stupid ideas lots of the time. This particular stupid idea happened … It’s genesis was in Brazil as an entirely innocent, after-dinner conversation, where I believe Blane, Dan Edwardes, Stephane Vigroux, and Bruno, who was the actual Brazilian, and the reason the guys were out there, having a hypothetical [00:01:00] debate over whether one would prefer to do 10,000 pushups in a day or 1,000 muscle-ups in a day.

Craig: I think I would prefer to be absent that day.

Chris: It’s an entirely interesting and hypothetical conversation.

Craig: Or so you thought.

Chris: What harm can come from this? I didn’t get a say in this. I just get told about this I guess a few weeks later because during the course of this conversation Blane decides that 1000 muscle-ups in a day is clearly [00:01:30] less horrendous than 10,000 pushups in a day. And furthermore, he’s going to do it. At which point, Dan thinks it’s a great idea.

Great is probably putting words in his mouth. Dan is not willing to be left out of the idea at this point. If someone else is doing it, this is a great challenge. This is something to learn a bit more about yourself. Maybe you can do it, maybe you can’t. Let’s see what happens. Steph [00:02:00] agrees as well. Bruno, for his sins, also agrees to join in, and is a great help when we got around to the change a few months later, but probably spends more time with a camera than with a scaffolding.

Craig: Right. What is the big event? What is the big takeaway aside from having done it? I think you’re one of the guys who actually finished it.

Chris: Yeah. There were eight of us that decided to take this on in the end. Myself was number five. Andy Pearson, one of the other tutors from London, joined [00:02:30] in as well. Who am I missing? Jun Sato…

Craig: Oh, right.

Chris: He’s an amazing guy from Japan, who I think, over time some myths may grow up around this, but I’m pretty sure he delayed his flight so that he could stay in the country and do the challenge with us. Joe Boyle, who is another guy from London, coached with us, and he’s just a phenomenal athlete, especially when it comes to endurance and strength endurance challenges.

Craig: Right. He’s figuring out the pace [00:03:00] and how to get it done.

Chris: Yeah, well, I don’t know if he knew how to get it done or at least innately knew how to get it done, but he bloody well got it done.

Craig: A journey of 1000 muscle-ups begins with a single muscle-up.

Chris: Yeah, and then a second and so on and so on until you hit 1000.

Craig: Any particular takeaways from that other than you never want to do that again?

Chris: Which we will also return to. Yeah. Actually, it [00:03:30] is possible. We’re talking with some of the other guys here at the gathering about challenges and is it a challenge if you know you can do it before you start?

Craig: Yeah. I heard someone say, “It takes a special skill to set a challenge for yourself that you’re unable to do,” and at first I was like, “Well, no, I could challenge myself to climb Mount Everest tomorrow,” but to actually set a challenge that you would actually attempt that you are unable to do is actually tricky. It’s like breaking [00:04:00] a jump in a way.

Chris: Yeah, especially one that maybe you’re not able to do but you think there’s a possibility you might. In many ways, it is like breaking a jump. The jump won’t scare you if you can’t do it. Likewise, if you know for a fact you can’t do the challenge it’s not really a challenge because at no point do you have the intention to try and do it.

Craig: To commit.

Chris: The problem is you need something that is conceivable enough that you’re going to go in with 100% intention to try and get it done but far enough away that you don’t go in 100% [00:04:30] sure it is going to get done. The combination of it being pitched at that level, the guys that were doing it, and I suspect on certainly my part and a few of the other guys, a little bit of hubris.

Craig: I’m like, “He’s going to say hubris.”

Chris: Yeah. I think I realized somewhere in the middle of the challenge that I’d not necessarily bitten off more than I can chew but certainly stuffed a lot more in my mouth [00:05:00] than I was expecting. Then there’s all kinds of little moments throughout the day that made me think how much easier it was with other people around. I can’t say for sure but I’m 99% certain I would not have done 1000 muscle-ups that day if I’d been the only one doing it.

Craig: Yeah, what would the vision in your mind be? “I’m going to do 1000 muscle-ups in an empty …” it was basically like a gym. In an empty gym without any heat. It was in the winter. [00:05:30] That would be mind-boggingly demotivating to be by yourself.

Chris: As with more legends, I did hear tell [inaudible 00:05:39] one of the second-generation guys from Lisse in France … He either did 1000 or did 600 or 800, or some phenomenal number, but on his own in a playground on a fairly thick bar. Just did three, walked to the other side of the playground, did three, and … [00:06:00] Yeah. It goes to show the challenges that those guys would do to find out what they are capable of and to build what they were capable of.

On the value of challenge

Craig: If I remember correctly it was 14 and a half hours. Why would anyone want to put themselves through not necessarily that specific challenge but a challenge of that magnitude in general? What’s the potential payoff?

Chris: To learn something about yourself. Modern life doesn’t give you many chances of seeing what you’re capable of.

Craig: [00:06:30] Opportunities for growth.

Chris: Yeah. Seeing where your limits are. Yeah, I didn’t get better at muscle-ups that day for sure …

Craig: I think the quality went down.

Chris: Yeah. It was three days before I could do another one. I came out of it knowing that when things got really awful I could still keep going. Then when things got really awful I still had a bunch of great people around me that were able to [00:07:00] either …

Craig: Understand the viewpoint maybe?

Chris: Yeah. Also, I don’t know if it was inspire me or motivate me or just that energy kept me going. I wasn’t doing it because other people were there watching. I didn’t care what they thought of me. That was not the boost I got from having other people around. It was just other people in the space either going through the same thing or supporting us and bringing us cups [00:07:30] of teas.

Craig: Yeah, there were people helping.

Chris: Or doing their own challenges in the background or just staying awake, in the case of my, now the strongest Keighley, but at the time a much, much smaller, younger, and weaker Keighley.

Craig: Right away what comes to mind is where did you learn that lesson originally? You weren’t born with that lesson. Where did that come from? How did you learn that that was a good way to seek growth was to seek these kinds of really big challenges?

Chris: I [00:08:00] think that probably … Look, I can’t pinpoint when I came across that as a very specific, “Ah, this is eureka moment of this is the mindset I want to adopt”. I think it was a gradual influence of probably people and training over time. Guys like Stephane Vigroux when they were coaching in London and coming up with, “Yes, we’ll do some wonderful technical movement training” and we’ll just do some physical training but as a more common way [00:08:30] of just making yourself stronger.

But then just all these little challenges, whether it was stories of the challenges that they used to do … That’s how Stephane [Vigroux] started. He went to learn from David and he was just some scrawny little teenager. David [Belle] would be like, “Oh, go do 1000 pushups.” Steph would go away and do it and come back like, “What’s next?”

Craig: Then you’re on-call for seven days and whenever I call you or text you you do it immediately, right?

Chris: Right. The influence of those kind of people and probably the training they had coming [00:09:00] up as they were learning about disciplining themselves of … Yeah, this challenge is going to give you more than just the training of the challenge.

Just over time I’d see good guys like Steph [Stephane Vigroux] in London…

Thomas Couetdic… [otherwise known as] Thoma Dubois… was also in London…

Kazuma. Kazuma came and taught with…

It wasn’t even Parkour Generations as it was in the very earliest months. But, I’d say parkour coaching as it was in the first [00:09:30] three or four months and then eventually Parkour Generations.

For sure, Forest [Francois Mahop] and Dan as well.

A very strong ethos of both tough physical challenge but as a way of building you mentally as well as physically. I never went in search of that. I think it was definitely I went there to get stronger …

Craig: Slow discovery process that you realized, “This really works”, right?

Chris: Yeah. Both, “I want more of it” because [00:10:00] when you succeed in a challenge that you’re not sure about the sense of success and achievement is almost infinitely greater than succeeding in a challenge that you knew you’re going to do. I don’t think I was ever chasing that high but it certainly gives you a very strong feeling of pride in yourself and what you can do.

Craig: Right. Self-validation.

Chris: Yeah. I don’t know if I’d necessarily characterize it as validating it myself as [00:10:30] much of almost like a pleasant surprise about yourself. It’s like, “Ah, actually, I can do this.”

On using challenge as a way to grow

Craig: You’re very experienced as a tutor. I know you normally teach the adapt level two courses and you’ve done tons of teaching sessions all over the world. But I don’t know what percentage of your students are day one beginners. The question that I have in the back of my mind is, at what point does really big challenge … Is [00:11:00] that something that’s a really good tool for people? Can you really do that from day one if you find the correct challenge? Or should you start with small challenges and go scale them up as you find your feet?

Chris: Yeah. Well, obviously, the scale of the challenge is going to be entirely dependent on what people are capable of because the really big challenges are the ones that are either just out of reach or in your last 1% of reach. Whether it’s day one or day …

Craig: 1000.

Chris: [00:11:30] Yeah, 10 years, 20 years down the line. It may evolve over time. Like the challenge in 20 years may not be as great in number as the challenge on four or five years in but how far it is out of your reach there will always be a challenge in that zone. From the beginning it’s probably more a question of how people respond to challenge. [00:12:00] Someone can be on day one and respond to challenge really well and if they try something and it turns out, “Ah, I’m not yet capable of it” …

Craig: They also learn something, right?

Chris: Oh, yeah. It’s still a very valuable experience but some people will take that a little bit more at face value and some people may need challenges a little bit more in the yellow zone that are going to be difficult but are definitely achievable just to help them understand the merit of those ideas and help them feel [00:12:30] empowered through those challenges rather than beaten down by them.

Craig: Can I actually be training without their being the presence of challenge?

Chris: I think you’d be missing out on a huge element of the discipline if that were the case. It doesn’t have to be a crazy physical challenge like the muscle-ups because …

Craig: Yeah, I can’t do that every day.

Chris: Yeah. For some people, balancing on a [inaudible 00:12:56] for 10 seconds … Like if you fall off after five seconds, get back up. [00:13:00] Fall off after three, fall off after six. You spend an hour trying to balance for 10 seconds without falling off.

Craig: That’s a challenge. Yeah.

Chris: Absolutely, and a much greater challenge than just a strong guy banging out a couple hundred pull-ups for the sake of it. You don’t know if you can do the balance, right? That’s when they’re in their top 5% … Let’s dial it down from 1%. We don’t want to be quite so much in the stress zone the whole time. The genuine uncertainty of, “Can I do this?” Because that’s how you discover [00:13:30] something. If you knew that you could do it anyway you’ve not discovered anything.

I think you don’t always want to be like this. It can be a very stressful way to train if every session is, “I’ve got to challenge myself in a very demanding way.” But I think the way we learn or get better at almost any human skill is through challenge. It’s applying it. If you’re cooking you don’t stay cooking toast for 20 years.

Craig: Right. You need to move the bar, right?

Chris: Right, but [00:14:00] every time you move the bar you’re like, “I’m going to try something that is more challenging. Can I raise myself to meet that bar?” The people that make the most progress will be the ones … Not necessarily I’m saying they’re the best guys but the people that make the most progress will be the ones who are willing to change themselves. Where that end point is will change from person to person, but their personal growth will be defined to some extent by how much they are willing to encounter challenge at the right level for where they are physically, [00:14:30] mentally, experientially.

On finding challenge in more common activities

Craig: We’re here at Gerlev [International Gathering] and this is your sixth time here. You’re an old veteran at this. Elsewhere we have been discussing with lots of people what’s great about Gerlev… and you guys built a tire tower and we’re talking like large tractor tires. I don’t know how they even lifted them let alone stacked them. That thing must have been 20 feet high. When they were done they had a leaning Tower of Pisa. People hanging off of it trying to keep it upright. I was off [00:15:00] elsewhere and I looked around and I’m like, “Oh, a tire tower. What?”

That was an interesting challenge. I’m sure somebody said, “Hey, we should stack the tires” and then off you went but what was the value of it? It looked like a ton of fun and pushing it over was awesome too. Was that a challenge? Or was that just you guys having fun?

Chris: It certainly felt like a challenge because … It was a challenge of many, many, many challenges because at the beginning it was just, “let’s stack some up.”

Craig: Yeah, [00:15:30] where’s the biggest one? Put it down.

Chris: Yeah, then it quickly became both a … Not so much a mental challenge of, “Can I push through this?” Actually, let’s do some physics and engineering here. How do we get these lighter tires, as we got further on, up significantly greater and less stable heights.

Craig: Yeah, the whole thing was swaying and some of the people at the top they had to have their feet 12 feet off the ground easily. That was three people high.

Chris: Yeah, well, the people at the top [00:16:00] seemed to be much more comfortable than the people at the bottom. I don’t know if that’s because we were cushioning them or just they had significantly less idea of what the angle was like.

Craig: Or how hard the asphalt is.

Chris: Yeah, it was … Phillip, one of the guys I believe from Parkour One, certainly from Germany, just had a little challenge for us, which was, “Let’s do this.” As with all challenges, it started out, yes, as a bit of fun [00:16:30] and then you hit the point of, “Oh, how do we do this?” The moments of, “There’s lots of boxes around. We can use the boxes to stand on to get the tires up there.” The box making the challenge easier.

Craig: Do we need that? Can we do without that?

Chris: Samson, another one of the Parkour One guys, made a very good point of once we got the final tire on was how much less satisfaction we’d have got if we brought the boxes in to do [00:17:00] so. Not like it would have tainted our achievement but it would have lessened the achievement.

Craig: There are a lot of parkour memes and one of my personal favorites if you’ve ever trained with me … If you haven’t, please find me, I would love to train with you. One of my favorites is gapping and if you haven’t seen this and you haven’t done it it makes no sense. It’s basically trying to squeeze through the smallest space that you can possibly squeeze through. Then, “That was too easy. Now do it backwards” or upside down or if it’s a ladder, squeeze through the top [00:17:30] rung. Those kind of things. My first question is, is that the same sort of challenge? What are your thoughts on why are we drawn to that?

Chris: I think as with anything else if you choose the right hole it’s exactly … For some of the guys who have done it it’s been as hard a challenge as probably anything else they’ve done. I tend to find it a bit easier. Just in the sense that if my ass fits through the rest of me gets in.

Craig: [00:18:00] I’ve noticed that I’m getting a really good eye for spotting gaps that would be challenging and interesting for me and I know, for example, if I can get my shoulders through then I fit through. Everybody knows which part of their body isn’t going to fit through and which direction … They look at that and they spot those distances and things that are really easy for you might be impossible for me. It draws you in the same way that spotting interesting jumps do. You know that’s just possible [00:18:30] and I really should go over there and do that and then off goes someone.

Chris: What’s the longest you’ve seen someone to get through a gap successfully? It doesn’t have to be successful. One gap, how long were they there for?

Craig: I don’t think I’ve struggled for more than 10 minutes on a particular one. It’s probably about the longest I’ve ever seen.

Chris: 25 minutes was the record in 35 degree heat. I think got halfway through, came out for a bit for water, came back to his hips for a water break, didn’t come out of the gap. Two or three people were standing over him with his [00:19:00] hands creating shade and space. Chau Belle coming across and looking very unimpressed that we were doing this whilst he was teaching around the corner.

It was one of the real challenges of the day. Can we do this? I think in the split second he maybe didn’t understand what was going on and just saw some people messing around. Yeah, one of the hardest things we’ve done. And scary in the sense that, at least the way that I do it … If my bum gets through, [00:19:30] the rest of me will go but I may need to exhale quite a lot.

Craig: …and which ribs are attached and which are moveable?

Chris: Can I get through it quick enough or do I have to do the world’s shallowest breath halfway through before I can keep going? That’s always an interesting one of just, absolutely zero air left in your lungs and then trying to shuffle your way out.

On losing everything and finding renewed purpose

Craig: The obvious question is, why are you not still in the Middle East [00:12:00] today?

Andrew: I thought I would be. That was the dream. I had this vision of my life and what I was doing. I thought I’d move there. I’d fallen in love with the culture. I talked my wife into-

Craig: Opportunities to help people out.

Andrew: Yeah. I wanted to start maybe a nonprofit or something, helping especially kids in difficult situations, maybe in Palestine or something. It all fell apart. Long story short, I ended up [00:12:30] back in the US and feeling like I lost everything. I’d lost my plan. I’d lost my vision for what I thought my life was going to be. I’d lost this purpose that I had. I lost relationships. I’d made promises to guys over there. I was like, “Hey, I’m going to come back. I’m going to open this gym. Ready to start this thing.”

Craig: Right. You had to walk away from that, right?

Andrew: Yeah, I felt crushed. Coming back, I’d spent all my money. My car had broken down. We’d gotten rid of our apartment my [00:13:00] wife and I had. I had nowhere to live. I had no money. I had no possessions. I’d given away the last of my money I could before we left the Middle East thinking I was coming back and getting a job. I didn’t have my job anymore. I’d quit that. It all really tumbled down and fell apart, and I ended up feeling really lost. I ended up, my brother and I, in a moment of desperation [00:13:30] and-

Craig: Yeah, a journey right, the quest…

Andrew: Yeah, just like, “I don’t know what else to do.” We get in a pickup truck, and we started driving west. Took a road map with us and that’s it and just, “Let’s see where we end up and see what happens.” We drove, and we just kept driving until we got to Colorado. I don’t know, something about the mountains, I guess. We drove there, and we ended up driving up into the mountains and parking the truck on the side of the road, and turning around [00:14:00] and looking up and we were like, “All right, which … Let’s climb that one,” which, honestly, is a terrible idea. To anyone out there listening, that’s not the way to climb a mountain.

Craig: Weather forecast? Nah.

Andrew: We did it late in the evening, so it was a just grueling climb up this mountain with rocks falling and nearly dying on cliffs that we should not … no business being on. Get to the top, and it was sunset. It was a terrible idea, but one of those adventures where it ends up perfect.

Craig: Yeah, could not have planned it better.

Andrew: Yeah. [00:14:30] My brother and I are up there, coming up over the crest and there’s maybe a half mile left to go, and it’s snow at this point, snow and these wildflowers. It was the beginning of summer. I don’t know. I don’t know what happened. I don’t know why I’m saying this on a podcast. I took all my clothes off and I just ran naked up the rest of the mountain. I felt like it was this moment, it was the right thing to do somehow. It was this … I don’t know if it was a metaphor for myself or if it was just how I was feeling that [00:15:00] I had nothing left.

Craig: Catharsis, right?

Andrew: On top of it all, I guess I didn’t mention, my knee was injured at this point, so I couldn’t do Parkour, either, and that’s something I wanted to be doing. I had nothing. I was like, “Okay, might as well take my clothes off, too. I guess I got nothing left.” I ran up this mountain naked, and was at the top. I come up over the crest, and the sun’s setting. Everything’s lit up. It’s all golden, and there’s just the Rockies spread out, just mountains, [00:15:30] as far as you can see. You feel like you’re on the top of the world. The sky’s so big when you’re up there. I don’t know. Here in Ohio, you drive through trees and buildings and whatnot, and the sky’s this blue thing up there.

Craig: Yeah, overhead, not all around.

Andrew: Yeah. You get on top of a mountain, you’re like, “No, the sky’s almost to your feet.” You’re just in this huge dome of the universe, and you feel so small. Just looking out at it all, I just threw my fist to the sky and [00:16:00] let out a yell of … I don’t know, of anger, frustration, of hurt.

Craig: Final fling of a- the last bit of a thing you were holding onto.

Andrew: Just shaking my fist at God and saying, “Why? Why is this? Why am I here? Why have I lost everything?” It’s weird. That moment was rock bottom for me, but it’s also the beginning of moving up, of a change.

Craig: Yeah, the new journey. From there, [00:16:30] you have two choices. You have the dark abyss on one side, literally, and then you have the journey that you chose.

Andrew: Yeah, I did. I felt like I had a choice, and I had to look and choose. Do I go into nothingness, I give up, I quit, I walk off the cliff ahead of me, I just run off it and scream and that’s it, or do I accept that, okay, everything’s been taken from me, but it was never mine to begin with? We come from dust, and we return to dust. We don’t have anything except what we’re given, and it’s a gift. [00:17:00] Life is a gift. Everything, every breath I have is a gift. Every step I take is a gift. If I only get to train Parkour one more time in my life, that’s a gift. It’s not a horrible thing. It’s a beautiful thing. If I’m paralyzed tomorrow, I still have been given so much. I guess in that moment, I had so much clarity of realizing I’ve been looking at life backwards this whole time. I’d been putting my motivation … Finding my motivation in, and putting my hope in, [00:17:30] all these things that I had, all these Parkour abilities-

Craig: Everything’s anchored in the future that way if you’re always thinking-

Andrew: Yeah. My plans for what I thought I was going to do with my life, how I thought things were going to pan out and all these things, and realizing … Yeah, it’s funny. Thinking back to the Daniel Ilabaca‘s words to me about, “Stop focusing on the future. You’re stutter stepping. You’re losing your strength.” I was running up to a precision jump, and I couldn’t hit it because I wasn’t putting my power into each moment, each step. I was [00:18:00] looking ahead of the jump. It’s so true. In that moment, I guess I hit that point of realizing that I can’t put my hope in all these other things because they all pass away eventually.

Craig: Sure. There’s no guarantee.

Andrew: I had to find something else to live for. I chose life. Between the two choices — the darkness, the abyss, and I think faith or [00:18:30] hope or something — I chose that. I said, “Okay, I’m going to believe that I think God has a purpose for me, that’s there some value for my life, that there’s something that was worth living for. I just have to try and seek that out and find what it is.” I put my clothes back on, and had a snowball fight with my brother, and drove back.

Craig: That’s the perfect ending, I was thinking, “I bet there was a snowball fight.”

Andrew: There was. There was a snowball fight. [00:19:00] I came back to Ohio and decided, “Okay, I’m going to be here…

Craig: Be here now for my family, for my community-

Andrew: Yeah, and not for myself and not for my plans and not for what I thought I was going to be done. It was weird. It was a weird moment. It’s all gone, so now it’s a blank slate. I’m here. What do I do? I feel like the answer that I got was, “love people.” You’re here in this place. Why [00:19:30] live here? Why not live somewhere else? It’s not for the weather, and it’s not for the training spots, or it’s not for any of these other reasons. Ultimately-

Craig: Sometimes it’s easy to fall back on and get complacent and say, “I live in this place. The sunset is gorgeous every day, and there are all these things,” and in some ways, the living in an environment where you don’t have any assistance, where things are just natural, just normal, that [00:20:00] requires you to rise to the occasion. You have to find the meaning in the moments.

Andrew: Yeah, I definitely was like, “Okay, I’ve said I’m in this place, so what do I do in this place?” I guess there’s people here, and there’s beautiful people here. They have value. I believe that they’re created with an inherent value. Each person is unique and beautiful, so I felt this calling to devote myself to that, that I should … [00:20:30] in as much as I had lost everything else to live for, that I’d found a purpose in living for love, that I found that I feel that I have been loved. That moment of realizing, “I’ve been given so much-”

Craig: Yeah, look at everything I have. Everything’s been taken away, but I still have all of this, right?

Andrew: Yeah. It’s a gift of, if nothing else, breathing. I’ve been given this gift, so in return, as much as I’ve been loved by God, how can I love others? [00:21:00] That really started digging me into the idea of community here in this place with these people. How can I-

Craig: How can I be a good father? How can I be a good husband? How can I be a good community member? What would that look like?

Andrew: Right, yeah. How can I do that … Even if it’s hard, even if it’s not … Sometimes I feel like people aren’t participating or they’re even fighting me in a way. Sometimes people hurt you in relationships. Sometimes you’re trying … I feel like I’m trying [00:21:30] to build a community and people are almost fighting against me in that, but I think that’s part of it. I think that’s part of loving people, is being able to take whatever they throw at you.

Craig: Right.

On starting a new community

Craig: When you’re deciding to actually create a space like the Akron Movement Family, you’re automatically going to face this contention because your normal community members are outdoor Parkour people; they’ve been in parks, they’ve been on sidewalks, and the standard things we think of, and now you’re saying [00:22:00] to them, “I’m going to make this space, and we’re going to train here.” In my experiences, I’ve seen a lot of struggle with people trying to bring their community indoors, and they tend to resist.

Andrew: Yeah. There’s resistance, I think. I’ve been told that there’s really two separate communities, and I’m finding the truth to that as I’ve tried to start a community and then be a gym owner. I had this vision. At the beginning, I thought the way it was going to work is I was going to build this community, and it was happening. I [00:22:30] was seeing this community build. I had this tight-knit group of guys. We would train every day, and it was growing. People were adding onto it. I think people saw the beauty in that group and wanted to be a part of it. Then that faded a little bit, and people moved away, and things happened. I ended up with the opportunity to start this gym, and I thought … I had always thought that I would build an outdoor community first and that we would have this tight-knit group, [00:23:00] and then we’d all come together and we’d make it happen.

Craig: Create this anchor point around which our community will then grow outward, right.

Andrew: Yeah. I had this vision. I remember seeing footage from Australia of the Owls Gang Parliament. I think it was those guys. They had a gym, and it was in a garage and with a bunch of janky stuff in a tiny little place, and everything’s grimy and everything’s a mess. I was like, “Yeah, that’s what I want.”

Craig: It’s a tool. It’s literally a tool that accomplishes their goal. It’s not shiny.

Andrew: I was like, if it’s that then you know it’s all heart. It’s no money, it’s no business. [00:23:30] That’s what I wanted, because I don’t want to be a businessman. Yeah, it didn’t really work that way. I thought that the community would come together and all do this together, but I’ve found that it’s hard. You have to fight through sometimes on your own and that outdoor community comes and goes, and they do their thing, but starting a Parkour gym is really starting a new community. We’ve had to start over from square one trying [00:24:00] to find people, find the people that we know are out there that would love this and would want to be a part of it and do it.

I guess thinking about trying to live out this new realization I had or this new purpose is … It all started with coming up with a name and a reason for what I was doing. It ended up being Akron Movement Family. I put a lot of thought into that name because I wanted it to represent what I was trying to do [00:24:30] and what I wanted to be and who I wanted to help. My sister and I, we were training together a lot at this point and decided to try and work together on this project. Talking things through and thinking about it, we really wanted it to be about community. We wanted the heart of it to be community, so we feel like the name had to be local. Akron had to be in there. [00:25:00] We wanted it to be about movement. I think I started to realize that movement is so central to life. It’s a strange thing because it seems like an abstract thought, “movement,” like what is movement or why do we move, but it seems to be the heart.

Craig: It seems to be deeply ingrained in the human experience. You go places, and you do some work on bars with people, and people [00:25:30] that you don’t know, maybe no common language, in a split second, you can tell whether they’re comfortable or whether they’re uncomfortable with bars. Is this the first time they’ve had their feet on a bar? There’s just so much in movement. It’s very intimate and very human.

Andrew: I had this thought I went through and became really fascinated with the idea that I think movement is life. Movement is life in so many different layers, both that … It’s kind [00:26:00] of the definition of life at a cellular level. A moving cell is living, whether that’s a tree or that’s an animal or that’s a human. That’s life, but then also thinking about water. Tracers often talk about the Bruce Lee quote, “flow like water,” but I think there’s even something more to that, which is so cool. My dad made a comment one time about moving water, the sound of moving water being so beautiful, and it started me thinking, “Well-”

Craig: What is it about that? Why are we drawn to [00:26:30] moving water?

Andrew: Everyone loves being at a river. People love water, but water is the basis of life. We’d die without water. Moving water is life. Stagnant water-

Craig: Yeah, stagnant water, probably not a good thing.

Andrew: It’s death. You drink that, you’re getting some kind of disease or something. That’s basic survival skills. We find beauty and we find life and purpose in moving, living water. If you don’t move, you’re dead, and I think that applies to us as humans, [00:27:00] how we live our lives, whether that is in relationships or that that’s just being physically, obviously, like are you just sitting all day. Are you just sitting in your car? What are you doing?

Craig: We’ve found ways to sit while moving.

Andrew: Yeah, we have. We somehow managed to do that. We got to get back to the point of remembering that if you’re not moving you’re dying. You sit long enough, you’ll die, literally from sitting. Your body will fall apart. It rots away. The same’s true [00:27:30] as … For me, as a person, am I moving somewhere? Am I progressing? Am I growing? Am I maturing, or am I stagnating? Am I sitting still and rotting in place? I think we have to be moving, and Akron Movement Family needs to be about that. It needs to be about movement.

Also, the third part of the name is family. I was really motivated [00:28:00] by different experiences through my life and really caring about kids and wanting to see a community that could be that, could be a family to people as … The more I live, the longer I live, the more I see that everyone’s struggling with something. Just because you made a kid that’s got a smile on their face doesn’t mean they’re not going through something horrible at home.

Craig: Right.

Andrew: My sister and I really came up with this vision to create a place where kids and [00:28:30] adults could come and have a space where they were safe and where they were loved, where they knew they were loved and cared about, and that they would feel … Whether they had this anywhere else in their life or not, that they would feel they had a family, and their family being people that love and care for them and are going to be faithful to them and be there for them, whatever they’re going through. Akron Movement Family was my attempt at trying to begin that [00:29:00] vision.

What did you see in Parkour, and in Denmark’s ‘Street Movement’ organization?

Craig: In the parkour world, Gerlev is best known for hosting its annual international gathering. Parkour’s presence and level of integration at Gerlev is unique. What I want to know is, what did you see in Parkour in Denmark’s Parkour organization Street Movement? What did you see in Parkour that caught your attention and sparked your interest in bringing Parkour to Gerlev?

Finn: Okay, that’s a good question because [00:03:00] it changed my life and it changed the strategy for Gerlev Sports Academy. It all happened, well 9, 10 years ago. I was watching a television program and in this television program, it was a national program where a lot of young people were what demonstrating different kind of skills. Then they should select the best skill, so that kind of program [00:03:30] in the television. I was just accidentally, I was watching the program and there I saw four young men, or young boys. They were in the 18, 19s. Then they were doing something they called free running and Parkour. I was looking at the guys and they were doing all that kind of challenging each other to jump easily from A [00:04:00] to B and to put it together as a show, as a presentation.

Then you have to understand, I’m a former gymnast. My life has been gymnastic. I was educated as a gymnastic teacher here at Gerlev, and when I was watching those guys I said, “This is, for me, the new happiness of doing gymnastic movements in a way which has not been destroyed by [00:04:30] some strictly rules about how the skills had to be done.” So I was… In fact those four guys they won that program.

Then I got in touch with those four guys and then I said, “Well, I’m the principal here at Gerlev. You may know about Gerlev. I would like to hire all four of you to be teachers here at Gerlev,” and they [00:05:00] said ‘yes’ because they were young and they had never been in touch with a sports Academy in that way, and now suddenly some crazy person asks them–

Craig: They found an advocate, right.

Finn: They find the situation where he wanted to them to visit this please and teach our students their way of moving, and it was absolutely funny. Those four young boys, they had not so much teaching experience, [00:05:30] and then you know, this Gerlev is in fact an old educational institution. We are founded in 1938. Those guys, they were climbing on the walls and on the–

Craig: On the buildings, right.

Finn: On the buildings and [crosstalk 00:05:49]-

Craig: You’re thinking, “What did I do?”

Finn: Yeah, yeah. No, this is absolutely, this is not good. Then I need to find out if this has something value. Then [00:06:00] after one year, we were talking and I said, “I’d love to continue this but we have some problem with the buildings. How can we do this?”

Craig: We need something for you to work on.

Finn: Yeah, and then one of the young boys, and I have to mention his name because–

Craig: Absolutely!

Finn: –because that guy is exactly the one who is in charge of this program you are visiting, Craig, here today, is Martin Kallesøe. He was one of those young guys and I asked him… or, he suggested [00:06:30] if we do some kind of drawings about some of the best spots we know from Europe and put it together in a very concentrated field here in Gerlev and then we build a pedagogical park where all this concrete and rails, and so on–

Craig: Yeah, yeah. The ideal example of each thing.

{ Note: The Gerlev Parkour Park. }

Finn: Exactly, so what happened, and this is in fact a scientific fact, [00:07:00] it is that at that time when I said, “Yes, let’s do that,” even, it was pretty expensive at that time but I believed them, so we built the first Parkour park in the world, because it was a park designed to teach for pedagogical reasons and not just for doing, but also to learn how to do it and, at the same time, understand the philosophy behind Parkour. [00:07:30] They are places where they have been practicing Parkour in Europe or maybe even in the states before, but it’s the first time that we created a park strictly for that reason.

Craig: Especially with that mindset. There are places where people have built Parkour places, but they’re set up for challenge. They’re set up for, “These are the kinds of technique things that we want to do,” and when you get to the one here at Gerlev, you realize, “This is a teaching [00:08:00] space.” It’s like coming into a gymnasium, only it’s obviously outdoors. It’s a very interesting space.

Finn: The funny part was that when they made the drawings and we put a lot of concrete and all the neighbors, they were saying, “When are you going to finish that building?”

Craig: It’s a three-story hulk. There’s a husk, there’s windows, there’s columns of walls. People who do Parkour see it and we immediately recognize the potential, but it looks like you quit halfway.

Finn: Exactly, [00:08:30] but we did that and I made one decision. You have to understand that this institution, Gerlev Sports Academy, or Gerlev Idrætshøjskole, is in fact very much strongly based on gymnastics, but I was on a crossway. Even [though] gymnastic has been my field. I was educated here. I was a young student here, returned back in the [inaudible 00:08:56] system teaching gymnastics. I returned for eight years [00:09:00] to be teacher teaching gymnastics here at this spot. I went to the University teaching gymnastics for 20 years and then I became headmaster. Then after two years, I decided to quit gymnastics at Gerlev, and instead of gymnastics I wanted to bring Parkour, the full potential to be the main subject together with street dance. I find [00:09:30] that the street dance, which became part of the Gerlev curriculum at the same time as I changed the philosophy about, “Well, I’m not fighting for getting gymnast. Now I’m fighting to get Parkour-interested young people,” and we have been doing that since, now for 10 years.

Craig: One of my impressions when I first got here was I looked at the facilities and I thought I knew where I was, and then when I started to move around in the space and they took us for a tour, and I realized [00:10:00] that the institution has this long history of there’s pictures on the wall of all the different classes. You can just see that this isn’t simply a school. There’s a lot more going on here that somehow the administration and the teachers and the students work together and live together. You read this place cultivates an individual responsibility, but then when you talk to the students who are here, you can just see that in them, so the English would say, “The proof is in the pudding,” [00:10:30] and it’s just patently obvious that Gerlev is accomplishing its goals.

Finn: Thank you. May I-

Craig: Absolutely.

Finn: It explains a little bit about because it’s even difficult to explain to the Danish politician what this kind of school is, so I fully understand if you have problem to try to grab it and to explain to young American, so it’s really … I fully understand because we are fighting really [00:11:00] to have the politicians-

Craig: Get the Danish to understand.

Finn: You see, before 20 years ago, a lot of the politicians in the parliament, they would have been students themselves at similar schools, but now the politicians in the parliament is very, very few of them, so they really don’t understand the personal developing which is happening in a place like this, and how we [00:11:30] are trying to create the feeling of how to reflect about your life, how to reflect about your society, how to reflect about how your sport is part of this society, and how we are influencing, and what good we are doing. We are, absolutely we are struggling to give the politicians this understanding, but they are nervous if they are [00:12:00] making too much-

Craig: Too much of a radical change.

Finn: Yeah. Then they are afraid of their voting and so on. My point is, I just changed a little bit because I’m traveling the world. I’m traveling, I’ve been doing this my whole life. In fact, I’ve been traveling the whole world doing gymnastics. I have been performing and I have been coaching all over the world. When I’m visiting universities trying to explain the students about what is Gerlev, really [00:12:30] I’m facing this again and again and again, but I have one sentence and I would like to share that sentence with you because in that moment I know I crack the students, and I’m saying:

Could you imagine that you are starting at an educational institution and we have no examinations? Then all the students [00:13:00] thinking about the next examination, the next examination and, “I lost two and I got only this mark,” and so on, and then you are here, you have an institution where the students are staying up to 10 months, from 4 up to 10 months, they decide, but we have no examinations. On the other hand, I tell them, “We may have a much stronger examination because if you don’t show that you want [00:13:30] to be here, if you don’t show that you want to develop yourself, then you are … There’s no reason for you to be here.” Then we say, “It’s maybe a better idea that you are leaving,” so that’s our way of having an examination.